TIM SPEARS has revealed he turned down Championship giants Bradford Bulls to join the "exciting" new era at York City Knights.

As reported by The Press last week, Featherstone Rovers' long-serving captain penned a one-year deal with York upon his release from Post Office Road, swapping Middle Eights rugby and a view of Super League for a different kind of challenge in League One.

The top-end Championship player is one of the marquee signings for the Knights' new owners following the recent takeover that secured the club's future and, while there has been a high turnover of players in the meantime, he believes James Ford's new-look squad is already "taking shape".

“It’s been good," said Spears of training so far.

“There have been a lot of changes but training is going well and things are starting to take shape.

“It’s exciting times really. The owners have ambitions, there’s a fantastic new training facility and we’ll be hopefully playing at York City, which is a good old traditional ground.

“Everyone is looking forward to building the club up and having a real dig in the league."

On Bradford's interest, Spears explained: "They wanted me to go full-time but I have quite a responsible job and, as I’m towards the end of my career, it didn’t really make sense to give that up.

“I’ve known James Ford for a few years and played against him. When I spoke to him and met him he outlined the plans for York and it was exciting. He sold the club to me, basically."

He added: “As a player you want to be challenging yourself in the best environment possible. I’m no exception.

“I consider myself a Championship player – I was playing in the Middle Eights to go up to Super League this year.

“That’s the level I want to play at and if I can help York to get to that level then great.

“But it’s also about being the best you can be in the environment you’re in. There are other challenges in League One but the quality (in this division) is also better than it was.

“Toronto will be in this league, Hunslet and Doncaster have spent money, and Keighley have a quality coach in Craig Lingard.

“Standards will be better again than in years gone by and hopefully I can contribute to improving York and getting the club where we want to be."

Spears admitted his release from Rovers came as a surprise, and left him "in a spot" as many other recruiting clubs had spent up their budgets by that point.

Nevertheless it is thought a number of other Championship outfits showed interest, with League One clubs also making approaches, among them Doncaster and Hunslet.

But York, playing catch-up following the drawn-out takeover talks, were in a perfect place to make a move.

“I had been at Featherstone a while and had agreed a new contract with them but for some reason there was a change of direction and when I went to sign it the contract was no longer there," he explained.

“Loyalty doesn’t seem to be what it used to be in professional sport, and it left me in a spot.

“However, the way things were going at York worked to my benefit.

“They were recruiting late by default and I was searching quite late for a club due to my circumstances.

“I had these meetings with James and he sold it to me."

He added: “I knew some of the players at York, then there’s the quality of the coaching staff, the training facilities and the ambitious future.

"It felt right to come here and now I’m excited to get going and hopefully pass on some experience to the younger guys and also feed off their enthusiasm and quality in their own right."

As for 2017 aims, he said: “The real message that’s coming through loud and clear from the coaches and the owners is that we don’t want to 'over-talk and under-achieve'.

“It’s a bit early as a group to lay out what we want to achieve for the year.

“There’s been a high turnover of players and it’s a new club in many ways. A lot of things we’ll be doing early on are on the fundamentals and getting fit and strong.

“I’m sure we’ll be sitting down together and reviewing goals in due course.

“We want to be competitive, obviously. But I’ve come to York with a view to getting promotion, not just making up the numbers.

“I want to be part of a group to take the club forward.

“I have a one-year contract but the club have talked about a three-year vision. They’re doing things the right way, building up and growing a culture, growing a group of players who want to represent the club the right way.

“They want to make sure we’re in a position not just to go up but to have the foundations to stay up and prosper."